Tailings Dams: are they worth the risk?

Nov 18, 2017

What is a tailings dam?

A tailings dam is typically an earth-fill embankment dam used to store byproducts of mining operations after separating the ore from the gangue. Conventional water retention dams can serve this purpose, but due to cost, a tailings dam is more viable. Tailings can be liquid, solid, or a slurry of fine particles. Solid tailings are often used as part of the structure itself. (Source: Wikipedia, November 2017)

What is stored in a tailings dam?

Bowden's Mine proposes to store all the finely ground rock from which the minerals are removed in a single storage facility located in a valley either to the east or west of the processing plant.

Tailings (a slurry) from the plant will be pumped / gravity fed to the TSF with the excess water draining from the tailings returned for use in the processing plant. (Source: BOWDENS SILVER PTY LIMITED PRELIMINARY ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT Bowdens Silver Project Report No. 429/26, November 2016).

What is the life span of a tailings dam?

According to "Tailings and Mine Waste" (Hinshaw, 2004) the "lifespan of most tailings impoundments is unlimited for practical purposes". 

Do tailings dams ever fail?

For a comprehensive international list of failures in tailings dams, see this link:

Tailings Dam Failures since 1960